Most Americans try to use their ff miles to/from Europe and fail. Here is another way to use them: fly to a less popular European gateway and buy an intra-Europe ticket.

Example: if you are joining our Tuscany Private Villa trip end March 2015, try to get your transAtlantic ticket into any of the following: London Heathrow,Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Geneva, Vienna, Munich keep trying the big airports. Here is a list of the busiest airports in Europe.

Now try the following European discounters for your flight to Pisa(in our example). Here is a list of the best known discounters. Most do not offer connecting flights which means if you are late and miss the next flight you have a problem. Leave loads of spare time.  (On a connecting ticket, if your first flight is late, the airline has to get you on a new second flight). We have personal experience with Ryanair, Easyjet, Air Berlin and Flybe, but not with the others. Tip: buy the extra baggage weight option on the web with your ticket, to avoid prohibitive charges when you check in.

The other option is to buy a ticket on a large airline off its European site which will end in for Britain, .fr from France etc. Google the flights you want; again in this example: London to Pisa? Paris to Pisa and you will automatically get the European site. PS some currency charges will apply.

Air Berlin offers connecting flights and codeshares with some members of the oneworld Alliance
Norwegian  Connecting flights can sometimes be booked on a single ticket online
Wizzair do not offer connecting flights, and accept no liability for missed connections. Passengers are advised to calculate “sufficient time”.
German Wings offer connecting flights, and can often check your luggage through to your destination.
Flybe offer connecting tickets, and will try to accommodate passengers onto the nearest available flight if a connection is missed.
Jet2 do not offer connecting flights, and accept no responsibility for missed connections.
Monarch Airlines do not offer connecting flights, and accept no responsibility for missed connections.
Smart Wings do not offer connecting flights

Do your research on any airline you choose, before plunking down your credit card. Discounters are pretty bare bones.